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This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.


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This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

30 review for The Journal Of John Woolman

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I won't deny the importance of this book both from a historical perspective and from the perspective of its place in American pedagogy. As a matter of reading, however, it’s abysmal with horrible run-on-sentences overstuffed with paeans to the divine. Thus, “Mama told me to get a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter” would, in Woolman’s hands, become “Mama, her heart full of love for the Lord, asked me, through the grace of divine aid and in observance of the fifth commandme I won't deny the importance of this book both from a historical perspective and from the perspective of its place in American pedagogy. As a matter of reading, however, it’s abysmal with horrible run-on-sentences overstuffed with paeans to the divine. Thus, “Mama told me to get a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter” would, in Woolman’s hands, become “Mama, her heart full of love for the Lord, asked me, through the grace of divine aid and in observance of the fifth commandment, to secure for her a loaf of bread such as that which Jesus fed to the multitudes, a container of milk praise be to God, and a stick of butter such that we would increase in fullness just as our hearts are forever increasing in fullness with the grace of the glorious savior.” Try making that a catchy cartoon. If one were to remove all of the attestations of faith, all that would left would be less a book than an anti-slavery pamphlet more worthy of your time. The point is, this isn’t a “good read” in any sense of the act of ingesting words. The book has other merits, but this isn’t one of them. Lest you think that this affected writing is just an artifact of its time, compare and contrast to Franklin's autobiography.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    The Journal of John Woolman gives us a look into the mind of a Quaker in the years just prior to the American Revolution. The language is old fashioned and could easily be parodied today but if we focus on the substance and meaning of Woolman's writing rather than its quaint form, we can see the heart felt life ambition who sincerely and intensely devoted his life to furthering the kingdom of God. Woolman did not intend his journal to be read by the public so there is a lot of minutia involving s The Journal of John Woolman gives us a look into the mind of a Quaker in the years just prior to the American Revolution. The language is old fashioned and could easily be parodied today but if we focus on the substance and meaning of Woolman's writing rather than its quaint form, we can see the heart felt life ambition who sincerely and intensely devoted his life to furthering the kingdom of God. Woolman did not intend his journal to be read by the public so there is a lot of minutia involving schedules of different meetings and visits with his fellow Quakers. A lot of the journal is a record of what Woolman said and how he admonished his fellow Quakers, such as rejecting materialness and vanity and staying un-conformed by the world around him. One interesting passage included his preaching against watching Magician Shows for entertainment. Apparently, he believed that such shows were evil and should be avoided. Who knows? Maybe back then they were. I'm sure his heart was in the right place. His loudest message was his cry of compassion for Native Americans and African slaves is the most dynamic part of his journal. He believed they needed to be seen as equals and treated fairly. Today we associate Quakers with the Abolitionist movement and rightly so, but it was Woolman rallied his fellow Friends and preached against slavery and pointed out its inconsistency with fellowship with Christ and Christian principles. That seems obvious to us today but we were not born in that environment and I doubt any of us could guarantee what our attitude would be. After all, is there slavery and oppression today throughout the world? What are we doing about it? This book was a part of my Harvard Classics collection and I think these writers of the past are important to read so we don't forget true history and are able to be informed enough to reject the fashionable revisionist history that is popular today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Asher

    As a descendant of enslaved Africans, I fully appreciate the life's work of John Woolman, he is a man that merits distinction and should be held in high regard. His contributions to the abolitionist movements are immeasurable and noteworthy. However, as a reader of his journal, I'm less impressed by John Woolman the writer. I will borrow Woolman's words to explain my annoyance: " In the uneasiness of body which I have many times felt by too much labor, not as a forced but a voluntary oppression, As a descendant of enslaved Africans, I fully appreciate the life's work of John Woolman, he is a man that merits distinction and should be held in high regard. His contributions to the abolitionist movements are immeasurable and noteworthy. However, as a reader of his journal, I'm less impressed by John Woolman the writer. I will borrow Woolman's words to explain my annoyance: " In the uneasiness of body which I have many times felt by too much labor, not as a forced but a voluntary oppression, I have often been excited to think on the original cause of that oppression which is imposed on many in the world. The latter part of the time wherein I labored on our plantation, my heart through the fresh visitations of heavenly love, being frequently spent in reading the life and doctrines of our blessed Redeemer, the account of the sufferings of martyrs, and the history of the first rise of our Society, a belief was gradually settled in my mind, that if such as had great estates generally lived in the humility and plainness which belong to Christian life, and laid much easier rents and interests on their land and moneys, and thus led the way to a right use of things, so great a number of people might be employed in things useful, that labor both for men and other creatures would need to be no more than an agreeable employ, and divers branches of business, which serve chiefly to please the natural inclinations of our minds, and which at present seem necessary to circulate that wealth which some gather, might, in this way of pure wisdom, be discontinued. " He led a 4 star life. His unedited journal is 1 star at best. After weeks of frustration in reading incessant run-on sentences; I terminated the project.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mark Valentine

    Why I kept reading this autobiography even though at times it seemed redundant was to discover that the turning point for an individual is also the turning point of a movement. Let me explain: Not only did he have a religious conversion, something he writes about in the early pages of the narrative, but he also converts away from slavery toward abolitionism. When you consider that he lived from 1720-1772, and that at time even Quakers held slaves, to go away from this one hundred years BEFORE it Why I kept reading this autobiography even though at times it seemed redundant was to discover that the turning point for an individual is also the turning point of a movement. Let me explain: Not only did he have a religious conversion, something he writes about in the early pages of the narrative, but he also converts away from slavery toward abolitionism. When you consider that he lived from 1720-1772, and that at time even Quakers held slaves, to go away from this one hundred years BEFORE it was a movement and eventually a Cause for fighting a War is fascinating. Woolman made a conscious, rational decision and then went to work trying to persuade others to have the same position. I am glad to have read it and admire the man immensely as a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement almost two hundred years before it was a banner issue. In a quiet way, it has a greater pedigree than Paine's, "Common Sense," or Woostonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Women," because in his quiet way he writes about how he went about persuading one Quaker at a time to abandon slavery as an institution. Read it to find how to live courageously too.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Weathervane

    Interesting to contrast Woolman's approach to life with that of Ben Franklin's -- as Woolman was a firm believer in God's plan for mankind, and His touch of providence in all human affairs, he was wont to submit to ill circumstances that befell him, choosing to view them as divine reproofs. He wasn't inclined to worry about future contingencies, such as how well he would eat or the shelter he would find; he seemed to place great faith in the proverb of the sparrow. This is a fruit -- or nut, dep Interesting to contrast Woolman's approach to life with that of Ben Franklin's -- as Woolman was a firm believer in God's plan for mankind, and His touch of providence in all human affairs, he was wont to submit to ill circumstances that befell him, choosing to view them as divine reproofs. He wasn't inclined to worry about future contingencies, such as how well he would eat or the shelter he would find; he seemed to place great faith in the proverb of the sparrow. This is a fruit -- or nut, depending on your perspective -- of the Quaker doctrine, of which the best example of its fatalism is its adherence to pacifist thought. Woolman and his Quaker family didn't believe in taking up arms even for the purpose of self-defense; in one of the Quakers' letters they essentially submit their survival as a group to God's will, as follows: "... let us constantly endeavor to have our minds sufficiently disentangled from the surfeiting cares of this life, and redeemed from the love of the world, that no earthly possessions nor enjoyments may bias our judgments, or turn us from that resignation and entire trust in God to which his blessing is most surely annexed; then may we say, 'Our Redeemer is mighty, he will plead our cause for us.' (Jer. 1. 34.) And if, for the further promoting of his most gracious purposes in the earth, he should give us to taste of that bitter cup of which his faithful ones have often partaken, O that we might be rightly prepared to receive it!" The Quakers welcomed death, were it part of God's plan, and John Woolman, though ostensibly possessing a strong American individualist streak exemplied by his outspoken opposition to slavery, came by such a trait via his devotion to his own conscience, to which he believed God dictated His will. Quite different, then, was the true nature of his character than one might believe had one only the opportunity to observe his physical actions; by reading his thoughts we understand that his abolitionism was borne not from a rebellious spirit but from an unshakeable devotion to God. This complete submission in all aspects of life couldn't be more different from Franklin's committment to individual industry. Woolman, his motivation deriving from an internal spring, nevertheless thought the waters were there by God's intent; Franklin's motivation was nigh-entirely sourced from his own personal will. We further see their philosophies diverge as Woolman pontificates on the marketplace, consumerism, and the hazards to the soul therein. He looked upon expensive luxuries and anything unnecessary to one's survival as complete superfluities, unbefitting a man of God in which to partake. Franklin, while recognizing the dangers of wallowing in excess pleasures, saw no moral imperative to forsake every triviality; it's well-known his love of food and clothes, though he warns extensively against the overindulgence of the former. Of particular irritance to me in reading Woolman's journal was his effusively righteous narration -- not, of course, that he preached down to the reader, as no one could deny he was a humble man; but the way in which every feeling, every action, every major event, could be brought back to God and His will, and the loving obedience we ought to show towards Him, began to remind me of one of those Christian radio shows often found on the AM dial: There is no problem that cannot be solved by prayer's proper application, and the practical issues of everyday life may, with nary a loss of matter, be easily transmuted into abstract wonderings of God's grace towards humankind. Woolman's religiousity, frankly, was outright obsession -- at first a refreshing turn, when one considers how many people profess but do not follow with any real assiduity their Holy Book of choice -- but quickly prodding my patience, as he began to sound like one of those tremendously charismatic persons who cannot shut up about their favourite hobby, even when no one around them has any interest whatsoever. "Zeal" has distinct potential to be interpreted as a sort of unhealthy autistic fixation, and it's hard to exempt Woolman from the diagnosis. In a comical vein, I appreciated his concerns about the sailing trade, and all the vices part and parcel. Perhaps it's easy to say from my modern vantage point, but what, really, did he expect upon boarding with sailors? Surely the shipping industry had by that time gained a considerable reputation for immorality; I find it hard to believe he could be so ignorant of sailors' scandalous behaviour. Then, he was fairly cloistered in the Quaker community at a young age, so perhaps he never got wind of such; surely his elders would've been hard at work to protect him from the sins of the world. Incidentally, Ben Franklin ought to've been glad at not having become a sailor, as he orginally planned -- I can't imagine he would've turned out half as well. I'd be remiss not to point out how little substance the book as a whole contains, probably an inevitability, when one considers that it is, after all, merely a journal; but I still believe about half the book could be cut, as it consists mainly of dull exposition about to which far-flung meeting Woolman headed next. The spiritualism, the unabashed moralizing, both I found pleasure in, given that the works of the modern age are usually soaked in America's built-up hedonism, and I particularly appreciated Woolman's points on living a simple life -- I can't disagree that one should strip out those trivialities which fail to add meaning or actual, bonafide joy to one's existence; and though for him that meaning ought to be exclusively derived from God, I'm sure, if he were alive, he'd be munificent enough not to belabour my disagreement. Worth reading, especially for the historical information; it might, however, be better packaged as a judicious selection of quotes.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Earl Grey Tea

    John Woolman cries way too much. Every other page it seems he is crying for joy or sadness or asking the big fella upstairs to give him some strength. While he does have some excellent commentary on life in the 18th century American colonies and some great arguments against slavery through the philosophy of Quakerism, much of the book is just him telling which Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly meeting that he has attended. I am no better off knowing that he attended the Sasquanna Weekly. I think th John Woolman cries way too much. Every other page it seems he is crying for joy or sadness or asking the big fella upstairs to give him some strength. While he does have some excellent commentary on life in the 18th century American colonies and some great arguments against slavery through the philosophy of Quakerism, much of the book is just him telling which Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly meeting that he has attended. I am no better off knowing that he attended the Sasquanna Weekly. I think the meat and potatoes of his journal should be extracted and put into 50 pages worth of material for the average reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Murphy

    I picked this up because it is a part of the Harvard Classics and seemed like a good book to read during Juneteenth. Woolman is way ahead of his time. He advocates for educating and freeing the slaves in a time when that was not on many people's radar. However, the text itself is very dry and I needed to make a concerted effort to push through. I would recommend to anyone who wants to read a primary source from the early abolition movement but know what you are signing up for. I picked this up because it is a part of the Harvard Classics and seemed like a good book to read during Juneteenth. Woolman is way ahead of his time. He advocates for educating and freeing the slaves in a time when that was not on many people's radar. However, the text itself is very dry and I needed to make a concerted effort to push through. I would recommend to anyone who wants to read a primary source from the early abolition movement but know what you are signing up for.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    (refers to the Project Gutenberg edition: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37311 ) Woolman strikes me as a man ahead of his time. While we associate him mostly with antislavery, a few sections of his journal also resonate with other current topics of interest: On the simple life: "My mind, through the Power of Truth, was in a good degree weaned from the Desire of outward Greatness, and I was learning to be content with real Conveniences, that were not costly; so that a Way of Life, free from much E (refers to the Project Gutenberg edition: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37311 ) Woolman strikes me as a man ahead of his time. While we associate him mostly with antislavery, a few sections of his journal also resonate with other current topics of interest: On the simple life: "My mind, through the Power of Truth, was in a good degree weaned from the Desire of outward Greatness, and I was learning to be content with real Conveniences, that were not costly; so that a Way of Life, free from much Entanglement, appeared best for me, though the Income might be small. " On faculty meeting (particularly at HC): "Here I had Occasion to consider, that it was a weighty Thing to speak much in large Meetings for Business: First, except our Minds are rightly prepared, and we clearly understand the Case we speak to, instead of forwarding, we hinder, Business, and make more Labour for those on whom the Burthen of the Work is laid. If selfish Views, or a partial Spirit, have any Room in our Minds, we are unfit for the Lord's Work; if we have a clear Prospect of the Business, and proper Weight on our Minds to speak, it behoves us to avoid useless Apologies and Repetitions: Where People are gathered from far, and adjourning a Meeting of Business is attended with great Difficulty, it behoves all to be cautious how they detain a Meeting; especially when they have sat six or seven Hours, and have a great Distance to ride Home." "Do I, in all my Proceedings, keep to that Use of Things which is agreeable to universal Righteousness?" Occupy!: "Here I was renewedly confirmed in my Mind, that the Lord (whose tender Mercies are over all his Works, and whose Ear is open to the Cries and Groans of the Oppressed) is graciously moving on the Hearts of People, to draw them off from the Desire of Wealth, and bring them into such an humble, lowly, Way of Living, that they may see their Way clearly, to repair to the Standard of true Righteousness; and not only break the Yoke of Oppression, but know him to be their Strength and Support in a Time of outward Affliction." "And how many are spending their Time and Money in Vanity and Superfluities, while thousands and tens of thousands want the Necessaries of Life, who might be relieved by them, and their Distresses, at such a Time as this, in some degree softened, by the administering suitable Things!" The essay "On Labour" seems a precursor to Ruskin... As a precursor to cooperative economics, Scott Bader Commonwealth, etc.: "If a Man successful in Business expends Part of his Income in Things of no real Use, while the Poor employed by him pass through great Difficulties in getting the Necessaries of Life, this requires his serious Attention."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kirt

    John Woolman’s journal proves him to have been wonderfully meek and devoted. To him, no discomfort or misfortune was without a silver lining or a pleasing mercy bestowed by God. He strove (usually, with success, I think) to perceive the will of the Lord in every undertaking. He had a highly educated conscience that moved him to constant humility in beseeching forgiveness of his errors. He was tireless in pure, selfless service for the relief of the lowliest creature and for the purposes of the H John Woolman’s journal proves him to have been wonderfully meek and devoted. To him, no discomfort or misfortune was without a silver lining or a pleasing mercy bestowed by God. He strove (usually, with success, I think) to perceive the will of the Lord in every undertaking. He had a highly educated conscience that moved him to constant humility in beseeching forgiveness of his errors. He was tireless in pure, selfless service for the relief of the lowliest creature and for the purposes of the Highest. I am very glad to have peered into the heart of this man through his own eloquent hand. I hope I have learned from him.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    This is one of many books in the public domain that are totally free. God only knows how I chose to embark upon the reading of this particular book amongst so many, but reading this journal has been very delightful. John Woolman was a Quaker preacher that lived in the middle of the 18th century. Much of the journal relates his travels to protest against slavery and war. This journal is not something that should really be reviewed. Instead, I feel inclined to simply list important elements of wis This is one of many books in the public domain that are totally free. God only knows how I chose to embark upon the reading of this particular book amongst so many, but reading this journal has been very delightful. John Woolman was a Quaker preacher that lived in the middle of the 18th century. Much of the journal relates his travels to protest against slavery and war. This journal is not something that should really be reviewed. Instead, I feel inclined to simply list important elements of wisdom that I gleaned from the reading, along with some direct quotations of Woolman’s, with of course citing appropriate credit to John Woolman for all that follows: On Speaking Out: Do not say more than is required. Instead, recognize those times when the pure spirit is inwardly moving upon your heart and wait in silence until then. When you feel the rise of the spirit then, and only then, stand and “bellow like a trumpet”. There is harmony in the voice which divine love gives utterance. Keep always to the channel of truth. Do not seek for words but utter that to people which truth opens for you. Be not afraid to offend Men who take offence at the truth. The fear of man brings a snare. Encourage a holy emulation. How to be: Love God in all his manifestations in the visible world. Do not become snared in a quest for popularity. Be an unflinching witness against wickedness. Clear your life from any dependence on evil. Do not act to the Standard of others, but make the Standard of Truth manifest to others. Strive for that state where the mind is devoted to serve God and all wants are bounded by his wisdom. Pray that God will preserve you from all corruption. Be weaned from the desire for outward greatness. Be seasoned with God’s salt and let grace abound within you. Be drawn away from the vanities of the world into an inward acquaintance with Christ. Be firm in that which you certainly know is right for you. You cannot please all men if you are honest in declaring that which truth has opened in you. Stand separate from every wrong way. Attend to that Holy Spirit that sets bounds to the desires. Feel the clothing of divine fortitude. If selfish views have any room in our minds we are unfit for the Lord’s work. Let no motion be attended to but that of the pure Spirit of Truth. Feel the power of the cross to crucify all that is selfish within you. Receive the gifts of Providence thankfully and deploy such gifts as God intends. Do not let Gods gifts be perverted. Do not let your life become a blaspheming to the Holy name of God. “O that our eyes may be single to the Lord!” –John Woolman Have compassion: Be filled with a yearning compassion for the sorrows of humanity. Be as a sensitive, nerve, over which creeps the oppressions of the earth. Feel the misery of fellow-beings who are separated from divine harmony. Feel the sufferings of those you love, just as you would feel your own children’s sufferings. Be full of anguish over the sorrows of humanity. Have a desire for the everlasting welfare of your fellow creatures. Exhibit the affectionate care of a good man for his brother in affliction. On unnecessary toil & simplicity: Be careful to guard against extravagance. Do not become bent down beneath unnecessary toil to support your outer greatness. Don’t let the calmness of life be changed into hurry by eagerly pursuing outward treasure. Embrace the simple life. Too much labor makes the understanding dull and intrudes upon the harmony of the body. The production of luxuries does not relieve economic distress. Redeem yourself from worldly pleasures. Fix yourself upon those joys that do not fade away. Do not be anxious after perishable things. A humble man with the blessing of the Lord may live on very little. Commonly, an increase in worldly wealth only breeds a desire for more and more wealth. Enter deeply into the happiness of humility. Let no earthly possessions bias your judgment. On the exploitation of others: Do not exploit those who labor for you. Work for a society within which no man profits by degradation of his fellowmen. Labor in accordance with the gifts bestowed upon you by God. The principal ground of oppression is the desire to gratify inclinations to luxury and superfluities. Experience the work that is carried on by the Holy Spirit instead of the work that is carried on by earthly might and power. On seeking the exaltation of the peaceable Kingdom of Christ: Desire that the Kingdom come. Work to hasten it in. Christianity must be extended until human society is transformed by the supernatural power by which it was consciously born. Promote the Lord’s work in the Earth. Seek to have universal love for all of your fellow-creatures. Let nothing hinder you from the steady attention to God. The spiritual kingdom will subdue and break in pieces all Kingdoms that oppose it. The peaceable Kingdom will gradually be extended to the ends of the earth in completion of those prophecies already begun that “Nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, nor learn war anymore”. Turn the hearts of the mighty and make way for the spreading of truth on the Earth. You are improving a wilderness. Seek that the pure peaceable Government of Christ may spread and prevail amongst mankind. A few of John Woolman’s many insights on this matter are included below: “God is graciously moving on the Hearts of People, to draw them off from the desire of wealth, and bring them into such a humble, lowly, way of living, that they may see their way clearly to repair to the Standard of true Righteousness; and not only break the yoke of oppression but know him to be their strength and support.” –John Woolman “In purity of heart the mind is divinely opened to behold the nature of universal Righteousness, or the Righteousness of the Kingdom of God.” –John Woolman “Great treasures managed in any other spirit than the Spirit of Truth disorders the affairs of society, for hereby the good gifts of God in this outward creation are turned into the channels of worldly honor.” –John Woolman “Many are the vanities and luxuries of the present age, and in laboring to support a way of living conformable to the present world, the departure from that wisdom that is pure and peaceable has been great.” –John Woolman. “The opening of that spring of living waters, which the true believers in Christ experience, by which they are redeemed from pride and covetousness, and brought into a state of meekness, where their hearts are enlarged in true love toward their fellow creatures universally.” –John Woolman The prophet Isaiah declared that a time was coming when “swords should be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and that nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor learn war anymore”. In true sanctification, the understanding is opened up to behold the peaceable harmonious nature of the Kingdom. Behold people within whom this light has already broken forth. On Righteousness: We are drawn to seek Righteousness, which flows out of God like a pure river of life-giving water. As the mind is moved to love God as an invisible incomprehensible Being, by the same it is moved to love all God’s manifestations in the visible World, of which Christ is one. Acting out of love and truth produces spiritual treasure that far exceeds the worth of any temporal treasure. Mortify that which remains in us that is of this world. Consider the force of your examples. On War: Cease from national contests that are productive of misery and bloodshed. Instead, submit the cause to God. The proceedings in wars are inconsistent with the purity of the Christian Religion. Mutual hatred arises in the minds of the children of those nations engaged in war with each other. “Our heavenly Father doth not require us to do evil, that Good may come of it.” –John Woolman On Adversity: If, for the further promotion of his gracious purpose in the Earth, he should give us a taste of that bitter cup which his faithful ones have often partaken of, let us be right prepared to receive it. Rejoice in the midst of adversity. On Worship: Let us prepare our hearts to truly adore him and inwardly turn away from that spirit and all its workings which is not of him. Be purged of dross and open to discipline. No enjoyment is equal to that which we partake of in fully resigning ourselves to the divine Will. A Guide to the Journal of John Woolman

  11. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    Imagine you have just discovered a time capsule into the past. But the contents aren't just from anyone, but they are somebody who was a great writer and someone who also has an endearing character. That is sort of what it felt like for me as I read through this book. Before picking this book up I had never heard of John Woolman. I read it because it was included in Volume 1 of the Harvard Classics (sandwiched between the Autobiography of Ben Franklin and Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn) Imagine you have just discovered a time capsule into the past. But the contents aren't just from anyone, but they are somebody who was a great writer and someone who also has an endearing character. That is sort of what it felt like for me as I read through this book. Before picking this book up I had never heard of John Woolman. I read it because it was included in Volume 1 of the Harvard Classics (sandwiched between the Autobiography of Ben Franklin and Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn). John Woolman was an itinerant preacher (If you can call it that) for the Quakers who lived between 1720-1772. Born in NJ, but travelled all over the colonies. There are several recurring themes that he reflects on, the goodness of God, the wisdom and virtue of living a simple life, and the evil of slavery, which he actively tries to persuade his fellow Quakers away from. Here is an excerpt from a letter he addressed to his fellow quakers. I like this quote (its kind of long) because it shows you how all three of these themes are all tied together in Woolman's mind. "It is a help in a country, yea, and a great favour and blessing, when customs first settled are agreeable to sound wisdom; but when they are otherwise the effect of them is grievous; and children feel themselves encompassed with difficulties prepared for them by their predecessors." "As moderate care and exercise, under the direction of true wisdom, are useful both to mind and body, so by these means in general the real wants of life are easily supplied, our gracious Father having so proportioned one to the other that keeping in the medium we may pass on quietly. Where slaves are purchased to do our labor numerous difficulties attend it. To rational creatures bondage is uneasy, and frequently occasions sourness and discontent in them; which affects the family and such as claim the mastery over them. Thus people and their children are many times encompassed with vexations, which arise from their applying to wrong methods to get a living." "I have been informed that there is a large number of Friends in your parts who have no slaves; and in tender and most affectionate love I beseech you to keep clear from purchasing any. Look, my dear friends, to Divine Providence, and follow in simplicity that exercise of body, that plainness and frugality, which true wisdom leads to; so may you be preserved from those dangers which attend such as are aiming at outward ease and greatness." "Treasures, though small, attained on a true principle of virtue, are sweet; and while we walk in the light of the Lord there is true comfort and satisfaction in the possession; neither the murmurs of an oppressed people, nor a throbbing, uneasy conscience, nor anxious thoughts about the evens of things, hinder the enjoyment of them (pp. 210-211)." As it turns out, he was remarkably effective at persuading the Quakers against slavery. According to the Introductory note, within 20 years of his death, "the practise of slavery had ceased in the Society of Friends." One can only imagine how things in America might have been different if all the other religious groups and denominations in Colonial America had similar voices speaking to them. Makes you wonder. Its a fascinating read. Highly recommend.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brent Winslow

    John Woolman was a Quaker preacher and strong abolitionist during the Colonial era. His journal was included in the Harvard Classics series published in 1909. The journal represents a very interesting first-person account of Colonial times and factors that led to the Revolutionary war, including the quartering of British soldiers. On human slavery: "O Lord my God! The amazing horrors of darkness were gathered around me and covered me all over, and I saw no way to go forth. I felt the misery of my John Woolman was a Quaker preacher and strong abolitionist during the Colonial era. His journal was included in the Harvard Classics series published in 1909. The journal represents a very interesting first-person account of Colonial times and factors that led to the Revolutionary war, including the quartering of British soldiers. On human slavery: "O Lord my God! The amazing horrors of darkness were gathered around me and covered me all over, and I saw no way to go forth. I felt the misery of my fellow-beings separated from the divine harmony, and it was heavier than I could bear; I was crushed down under it." All great lovers are great sufferers. "The love of ease and gain is the motive in general for keeping slaves, and men are wont to take hold of weak arguments [e.g., descendancy from Cain] to support a cause which is unreasonable." On personal trials: "My heart was often tenderly affected, under a sense of the Lord's goodness, in sanctifying my troubles and exercises, turning them to my comfort, and I believe, to the benefit of many others."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carsten Thomsen

    Woolman began to write this journal in 1756 and it continued to within a few days of his death in 1772. I liked this book for several reasons. We get a glimpse into the Christian fellowship of the Quakers - we follow a man who fervently yet in a quiet and polite manner are speaking against the slave-trade and those who are keeping slaves. And raising his voice against numerous injustices he encounters on his many journeys. And finally we read about Woolman's inner spiritual journey - his constan Woolman began to write this journal in 1756 and it continued to within a few days of his death in 1772. I liked this book for several reasons. We get a glimpse into the Christian fellowship of the Quakers - we follow a man who fervently yet in a quiet and polite manner are speaking against the slave-trade and those who are keeping slaves. And raising his voice against numerous injustices he encounters on his many journeys. And finally we read about Woolman's inner spiritual journey - his constant desire to live close to God, listening to His voice.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    This is the journal of a great man, travelling around trying to convince people not to own slaves in 1763. It also cover his thoughts, trials, and tribulations while travelling the continent before it was tamed. It has some great thoughts on disease and its 'holiness' as well as his dealings with Native Americans at the time. I would definitely recommend this for someone wondering how exactly people dealt with owning slaves and religion. This is the journal of a great man, travelling around trying to convince people not to own slaves in 1763. It also cover his thoughts, trials, and tribulations while travelling the continent before it was tamed. It has some great thoughts on disease and its 'holiness' as well as his dealings with Native Americans at the time. I would definitely recommend this for someone wondering how exactly people dealt with owning slaves and religion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    My word, that took a while. This was my bedtime reading, which didn't help my pace, but it was also just incredible boring and repetitive. I was expecting much more inspiring spirituality here, but I found it rather dull. Mostly, Woolman just relates the mundanities of his travels. There is quite a bit of interesting writing against slavery, and a few bright tidbits of wisdom, but it was far less inspiring than I had hoped. Perhaps a biography of Woolman would be better suited to my taste. My word, that took a while. This was my bedtime reading, which didn't help my pace, but it was also just incredible boring and repetitive. I was expecting much more inspiring spirituality here, but I found it rather dull. Mostly, Woolman just relates the mundanities of his travels. There is quite a bit of interesting writing against slavery, and a few bright tidbits of wisdom, but it was far less inspiring than I had hoped. Perhaps a biography of Woolman would be better suited to my taste.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Donald Luther

    Reading this volume so soon after completing 'The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,' written almost concurrently, amply shows the range of intellectual life in the 18th-century colonies. Franklin, secular, a printer, and making his way into the upper circles of Philadelphia society, shows that part of the American character that pursued success and reputation. Woolman, a devout member of the Friends, a tradesman only when he needed to be, and moving among the Quaker families that established t Reading this volume so soon after completing 'The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin,' written almost concurrently, amply shows the range of intellectual life in the 18th-century colonies. Franklin, secular, a printer, and making his way into the upper circles of Philadelphia society, shows that part of the American character that pursued success and reputation. Woolman, a devout member of the Friends, a tradesman only when he needed to be, and moving among the Quaker families that established the middle colonies (he travelled from his home in New Jersey as far north as Boston and south to Carolina), gives us a journal that is bursting with his sense of the overwhelming presence of God in his life, and shows the reverse side of the coin of American character--the American's belief in his exceptionalism. As a historian, I found Woolman's journal interesting in the sense that he rarely wrote about family. The birth of his children is never discussed and any mention of their existence comes as a shock. His wedding is described very briefly and his wife thereafter simply occupies a shadowy background, mentioned only when he returns from his travels, to mention that she is 'well.' His very early anti-slavery crusade is covered well and he seemed justly proud of his efforts to convince Friends to remove themselves from the institution and the trade. 'Proud' would not be a word Woolman would embrace, since nothing he did, said, or even thought about was his own, but rather a sign of the influence of God in him. In that sense, he was clearly different from Franklin. Franklin was clearly a man of his own time, the Enlightenment, looking forward to a much more reasonable rational world. Woolman, it seemed to me, would have been much more comfortable in the 17th century. As a final, personal note, Woolman struck me as a tedious busybody. This was a man who entered a public house one evening and, after securing the owner's permission, would accost all who entered because they were about to have an evening's entertainment by a juggler, seeing this as an unsuitable pastime. He reminds me of the street-corner proselytizer, declaring all who are moving about their daily lives are somehow sinners and bound for damnation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eline

    In this case I had fresh confirmation that acting contrary to present outward interest, from a motive of Divine love and in regard to truth and righteousness, and thereby incurring the resentments of people, opens the way to a treasure better than silver, and to a friendship exceeding the friendship of men. By all appearances John Woolman was a humble, compassionate, idealistic American quaker who felt the suffering of the world keenly and who gave up his own comfort and safety to travel widely a In this case I had fresh confirmation that acting contrary to present outward interest, from a motive of Divine love and in regard to truth and righteousness, and thereby incurring the resentments of people, opens the way to a treasure better than silver, and to a friendship exceeding the friendship of men. By all appearances John Woolman was a humble, compassionate, idealistic American quaker who felt the suffering of the world keenly and who gave up his own comfort and safety to travel widely and speak up against oppression. In a time when very little people cared, Woolman was struck by the inhumane treatment of African slaves and was constantly on the move to convince his fellow Friends to abolish this evil practice and give African Americans their freedom. War was still violently erupting between native Americans and the English and yet he took great pains to visit the Indians and bond with them. Compare this to Benjamin Franklin who called native Americans savages who God felt pleased to wipe out in favour of the “cultivated” man and who considered speaking bad about someone as “blackening” them and you realise that Woolman was way ahead of his time. The journal itself has nuggets of wisdom, but it can however be somewhat tedious. I'm not sure Woolman meant his journal to be published, and we are treated to a detailed account of to which meeting he traveled with whom, while the content of his meetings remain mostly vague. This can become very repetitive. I still gave this book 3 stars because I was really impressed by John Woolman's selfless way of living and how his mind was constantly occupied with the suffering of others. I also think that his analysis of the origin of oppression made me see things in a new light and is still very much relevant today.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    I was out of literary fiction on hand that I wanted to read as part of my out-of-genre resolution, so I decided to go back to the Harvard 5-foot shelf. This was the next book, and it was an interesting look back in time if not something I would typically read for fun. It's the journal of an 18th century Quaker abolitionist at a time when even most Quakers were like, "Eh... slavery is probably bad, but us white people are just benefitting a lot, so..." The pro-slavery arguments Woolman deals with I was out of literary fiction on hand that I wanted to read as part of my out-of-genre resolution, so I decided to go back to the Harvard 5-foot shelf. This was the next book, and it was an interesting look back in time if not something I would typically read for fun. It's the journal of an 18th century Quaker abolitionist at a time when even most Quakers were like, "Eh... slavery is probably bad, but us white people are just benefitting a lot, so..." The pro-slavery arguments Woolman deals with are fascinating and often frighteningly close to anti-BLM arguments today. The whole, "Well, their lives were so horrible in Africa, we're actually doing them a favor," is particularly disturbing. I enjoy Woolman's biblical shutdowns about racial inferiority (you can't believe in the race of Cain and also believe in the Great Flood), and his painful explanation that slaves might be "lazy" due to being horrifically treated and forced to labor in something that benefits them not at all. Seems obvious and yet modern day systemic racism prevails. Now, I'm not a Christian, so Woolman's attitude towards the morality of dyed clothing is a little much for me, but he does also manage to explore how damaging capitalism can be, how we should really think about where products come from rather than just gratifying our every wish in the most convenient way possible. He also talks about the immorality of paying taxes knowing that those taxes are funding wars against indigenous peoples. These sorts of philosophies are definitely still worth reading about today, and are are probably why this book has a place in a library of modern knowledge. If you are looking for some firsthand moral philosophy and some excellent shut downs of 18th century racists, give it a go.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Wolz

    5 stars for content, but I agree with most other reviewers that Woolman’s grammar leaves something to be desired. There are sentences that can only be described as laborious. The edition that I have might have some formatting issues, as it feels like the margins are a moving target and there is no way to differentiate between subject headings and prose. That being said, this is a book that more American Christians need to read. In this racially divided world we can learn much from one of the ear 5 stars for content, but I agree with most other reviewers that Woolman’s grammar leaves something to be desired. There are sentences that can only be described as laborious. The edition that I have might have some formatting issues, as it feels like the margins are a moving target and there is no way to differentiate between subject headings and prose. That being said, this is a book that more American Christians need to read. In this racially divided world we can learn much from one of the earliest American abolitionists. Even in a pre-revolutionary war setting, Woolman was one of the few who recognized the evil nature of slavery and he worked to bring about its end. He entered into voluntary poverty for the sake of others. If he had been a more prolific author I think we would look to Woolman, and not Jonathan Edwards, as the most significant American theologian of the 16th century. As it stands, I think we have more to learn from Woolman than from Edwards, even with such a small writing sample. But I digress. I strongly recommend this book, even in spite of Woolman’s grammar.

  20. 4 out of 5

    JR Snow

    Second work in the first volume of the Harvard Classics. I'm reading from the first edition, published in 1909. John Woolman was quite the character. A Quaker in the 18th century who was influential in ending the slave trade among Quakers in the colonies. What is most powerful about his character is firstly that he is a very humble person, and it is a joy to feel it come through as you read his journals. Secondly, he always acted out his principles, even if it would accomplish little in the real Second work in the first volume of the Harvard Classics. I'm reading from the first edition, published in 1909. John Woolman was quite the character. A Quaker in the 18th century who was influential in ending the slave trade among Quakers in the colonies. What is most powerful about his character is firstly that he is a very humble person, and it is a joy to feel it come through as you read his journals. Secondly, he always acted out his principles, even if it would accomplish little in the real world. For instance, he wore very plain clothes like most Quakers, but unlike most Quakers he refused to wear dyed clothes, which stood out and earned him disgust among even other Quakers. He believed that wearing dyed clothes wasted material, hid dirt, and was showy! He also refused at times to have people send him mail because he saw firsthand the hardship put upon young boys in hurrying to carry mail by post, and he didn't want to contribute to that. I may not agree with him, but I admire him. Worthwhile reading.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    I read this book as it was included in the Harvard Classics list. An ardent abolitionist who fought to free the slaves almost a century before the Emancipation Proclamation, Woolman comes across as both a credit to the Quaker religious sect and a humble, deeply principled man. While it seems apparent that he did great work in dedication to his cause—convincing other to free their slaves at a time when even many fellow Quakers owned made use of slave labor— his journal is a dry read that mainly rec I read this book as it was included in the Harvard Classics list. An ardent abolitionist who fought to free the slaves almost a century before the Emancipation Proclamation, Woolman comes across as both a credit to the Quaker religious sect and a humble, deeply principled man. While it seems apparent that he did great work in dedication to his cause—convincing other to free their slaves at a time when even many fellow Quakers owned made use of slave labor— his journal is a dry read that mainly recounts his numerous visits to Quaker gatherings. While useful in an academic sense and of possible utility to Quakers themselves, much of the content herein is too tied to religion to be of general interest. Readers hoping for meditations on the institution of slavery in the tradition of Frederick Douglass are likely to be disappointed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip Cosand

    I'm a fan of Woolman's way of thinking. Simple lives, kindness to all, fair treatment; it all gels with me so I was curious to hear what he had to say. Granted, he never intended for this to be a great tome consumed by the masses. But I'm a parable guy. Teach me by stories, not lectures. When he tells stories of going off to other places? Visiting with indigenous people? Surviving a boat trip with the common passengers on board? That is when I am won over. That is where I see the storytelling tha I'm a fan of Woolman's way of thinking. Simple lives, kindness to all, fair treatment; it all gels with me so I was curious to hear what he had to say. Granted, he never intended for this to be a great tome consumed by the masses. But I'm a parable guy. Teach me by stories, not lectures. When he tells stories of going off to other places? Visiting with indigenous people? Surviving a boat trip with the common passengers on board? That is when I am won over. That is where I see the storytelling that I yearn for. When he preaches or goes on for pages about the same topics, then my interest wains. And I get it. My own journals often revisit the same topics, the same viewpoints, the same struggles. If this journal had been all about recounting stories, it would have been a treasure. As it stands, it was a book worth my time full of views that are still relevant.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Parkany

    Read Chapters 1-8 and I don’t think that I’ll read more. Great discussion before Meeting today. Personally I enjoyed the Quaker logistics: silent meetings until moved to speak, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly Meetings, getting travel certificates. I appreciate JW’s thoughts on numerous subjects, slavery, billeting soldiers, leading a quality and happy life. He chose to be a tailor rather than building a merchant business. A thought-provoking query—what is a modern equivalent to slavery? I think that Read Chapters 1-8 and I don’t think that I’ll read more. Great discussion before Meeting today. Personally I enjoyed the Quaker logistics: silent meetings until moved to speak, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly Meetings, getting travel certificates. I appreciate JW’s thoughts on numerous subjects, slavery, billeting soldiers, leading a quality and happy life. He chose to be a tailor rather than building a merchant business. A thought-provoking query—what is a modern equivalent to slavery? I think that it’s consumerism. So does buying and spending lead to climate effects (yes) and slavery equivalents (homeless, working poor, disparate classes) (not sure). And in retrospect we can justify, rationalize a lot—that our choices are “Quakerly”—JW did, I can.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This was interesting as a window into early America, Quaker practices, abolitionism, and so forth. The author did a lot of traveling and telling Quaker slave-owners one-on-one, with love and respect, that slavery is wrong. Inspiring. Helping individuals fix a social problem is harder, but more powerful, than just lamenting the problem or issuing a generalized condemnation (although Woolman also did work through institutional and literary channels). I read the PG edition as part of my Harvard Cla This was interesting as a window into early America, Quaker practices, abolitionism, and so forth. The author did a lot of traveling and telling Quaker slave-owners one-on-one, with love and respect, that slavery is wrong. Inspiring. Helping individuals fix a social problem is harder, but more powerful, than just lamenting the problem or issuing a generalized condemnation (although Woolman also did work through institutional and literary channels). I read the PG edition as part of my Harvard Classics reading push. The author was a remarkable man but his prose provides ample opportunity to exercise longsuffering (hence not five stars). This seems like it could profitably be abridged by deleting some of the travelogue material and judiciously converting commas to periods.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    The Quakers have weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings and in the majority of these John Woolman condemns the slave trade and everything associated with it. His reasoning is that fine luxuries are only possible because of this sinful and immoral practice. All the action takes place in the 1750’s in England and the English colonies of America, in which every other word is capitalized. If you enjoy reading sermons that are directed towards believers in Christianity and are long, boring an The Quakers have weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings and in the majority of these John Woolman condemns the slave trade and everything associated with it. His reasoning is that fine luxuries are only possible because of this sinful and immoral practice. All the action takes place in the 1750’s in England and the English colonies of America, in which every other word is capitalized. If you enjoy reading sermons that are directed towards believers in Christianity and are long, boring and repetitive you will enjoy this book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick Sokol

    A beautiful little book from a compassionate and gentle mind. Yes, on paper it is a boring collection of hyper religious notes documenting hundreds of various Quaker meetings. But where he pauses to pontificate on some social issue of interest, he shows that he was running an ethical operating system generations ahead of his time. While Woolman's austere religiosity may not be for everyone, he is a sparkling example of a simple, introspective, and thoroughly examined life. A beautiful little book from a compassionate and gentle mind. Yes, on paper it is a boring collection of hyper religious notes documenting hundreds of various Quaker meetings. But where he pauses to pontificate on some social issue of interest, he shows that he was running an ethical operating system generations ahead of his time. While Woolman's austere religiosity may not be for everyone, he is a sparkling example of a simple, introspective, and thoroughly examined life.

  27. 5 out of 5

    JennanneJ

    A bit dry, but an interesting look at the life of the strict anti-slavery life of John Woolman. A man of strong convictions who sought the light from God. "Where people let loose their minds after the love of outward things, and are more engaged in pursuing the profits and seeking the friendships of this world than to be inwardly acquainted with the way of true peace, they walk in a vain shadow, while the true comfort of life is wanting." A bit dry, but an interesting look at the life of the strict anti-slavery life of John Woolman. A man of strong convictions who sought the light from God. "Where people let loose their minds after the love of outward things, and are more engaged in pursuing the profits and seeking the friendships of this world than to be inwardly acquainted with the way of true peace, they walk in a vain shadow, while the true comfort of life is wanting."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sofia Sofia

    By page 22, I was in tears. That's a first. There are parts of this book that are indescribably beautiful, as a man of faith engages on his journey around America and then the UK. Personally, I found it kind of a slog with not enough real information in the actual journals (not that surprising given that they are, you know, journals), and it did teach me how to speed read better, just because I wanted to get through it that fucking bad. By page 22, I was in tears. That's a first. There are parts of this book that are indescribably beautiful, as a man of faith engages on his journey around America and then the UK. Personally, I found it kind of a slog with not enough real information in the actual journals (not that surprising given that they are, you know, journals), and it did teach me how to speed read better, just because I wanted to get through it that fucking bad.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jack Bush

    An interesting view into the mind of a Conscience Objector at the time of the Colonies. Whether the treatment of slaves, the Indians, the dying of clothing, or living an undisciplined life filled with impurity John Woolman objected. Nothing short of the wholehearted pursuit of servitude to His Lord Jesus Christ would do. A Quaker Minister - a worthy read of a soul whose type is seemingly sorely lacking these days.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    John Woolman is as pious and benevolent a man as ever walked the earth. He had wonderful ideas against slavery, conscription, cruelty to humans and animals, injustices to people and oppression to name but a few. But reading the book (journal) was painful. I saw a list of his quotes and I recommend reading those over plodding through this journal.

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